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  • Shyama VS

The AI dictionary: Whispers Within Words

Updated: Apr 30

I am curious about the way words come into being. How do we go from a collective understanding of a sound that shape-shifts into another? As a part of this residency, I have chosen a couple of words to investigate. 

Web scrapping: Looking into this word, I have found 2 versions called scraping and scrapping. The word became popular in the early 2000s. It became established around 2005-2006 when the visual web scrapers were created. But in 2001 the word is used interchangeably with screen scraping(below) and has a slightly different meaning to how it is understood in the present. The word then increased in popularity after 2013. 

When translating scraping to Malayalam it comes closer to the word grating which is closer to food. The English dictionary description (below) has hints of damage that scraping can create. Web-scraping and harvesting, what mental imagery do they draw upon ? The mental model can be  similar to grating or harvesting or stealing or trespassing


Cambridge dictionary added hallucinate as word of the year 2023. But where did this word originate from ? 

The earliest documentation in AI context I can find comes from a 2001 paper by Simon Baker and Takeo Kanade called Hallucinating Faces. Why did they chose this word hallucinate while writing up their paper? At what point did ‘face hallucination’ shapeshift into all kinds of AI errors that are called hallucinations. What impact does it have on a user’s understanding of AI ?

image from the paper 'Hallucinating Faces'

Prompt Engineering 

Why is it prompt engineering, when you are just asking a question ?'

Looking around for the use of this word, I have found some examples from the 60s(see below), I am yet to understand what it actually meant back then. 

Then there is an absolute silence around the word till 2021, where it starts re-appearing in research papers again within the context of AI prompts.


No matter how AI spells it, what does it mean for a machine to understand ?

Where does that leave us ?

This is how far my understanding has reached, there are too many gaps for me to say anything with certainty. But I am curious to know more. I wish I could be in the room with Simon Baker and Takeo Kanade when they chose the word Hallucinate, I wish I could be in the room that chose to apply the same to an error made my a new technology and imagine how our collective understanding would have shifted, had they chosen a different word. 


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